The Netherlands has a very buoyant food truck scene with an event seemingly popping up in The Hague every month. Nick Mosley catches up with Lotte Lene Holtappels and Julien Salsiccia – aka Kaas en Worst – to find out more about the trend and their own food truck business.
I first met with Lotte and Julien about two years or so back when I was planning a big food event in the UK. They thought it would be fun to come over and join us, and had three days trading and helping cater for our beer festival on Brighton seafront.
Their route to food truck owners wasn’t perhaps the most obvious one. Whilst Lotte studied design at the art academy, Julien’s previous life saw him at Rabobank. Quite a leap.
So what’s the concept behind Kaas en Worst – Cheese and Sausage?
“Its about lekker borrelen”, says Lotte. “Celebrating Dutch cuisine and local food. We can stand out from the crowd with quality everyday ingredients. You could say Dutch classics with a twist. Its a challenge but thats what makes us unique”.
“And I make my own sausages”, adds Julien. “There’s nothing standard or ordinary about our sausages”.
The name itself came from Lotte’s tattoo of a piece of cheese.
“Lotte got the tattoo because she loves cheese”, says Julien. “And as I love sausage – and Lotte –, I got a sausage tattoo. Cheese and sausage belong together, so thats where the truck name came from”.
Now as much as the food is important, in the world of food trucks the vehicle itself is the ‘shop window’ to entice the customer to taste and buy. Its a visually competitive environment to be operating in.
“The look of the truck is cosy; Dutch and homely”, says Lotte. “Delft blue tiles, a warm wooden interior and vintage equipment to prepare the sausage from the truck’s side hatch”.
Food truck festivals are incredibly popular in the Netherlands. In fact noticeably more so than in the UK where there is a very different food festival model in most major towns and cities that focuses more on local restaurants and producers rather than touring caterers.
“People love the food truck festivals because of the laid-back atmosphere”, says Julien. “Good food made with love, retro vans, free entry and a great place to relax with friends. It all adds up to a great food truck festival”.
“My favourite truck is Bitter&Real”, says Lotte. “Their converted Citroen van is totally electric with solar panels. And they are really nice people who work with organic ingredients and serve great coffee. If you’re working on a festival 12 hours a day for four days then where would you be without coffee. They make the perfect neighbour!”.
The guys have a passion for sourcing quality local produce. In addition to Julien making his own sausages, he sources from local suppliers and farmers to ensure the provenance of the meat.
“The cheeses we use are from the area of Groene Hart [Green Heart in the Dutch Randstad]”, says Julien. “Mostly boerenkazen or farmer’s cheese”.
“Every season has its own typical cheeses”, adds Lotte. “So, yes, seasonality is definitely important to us”.
I wonder what their advice would be to someone who wanted to start up a food truck business.
Lotte says that the romantic idea of buying an old vehicle, reconstructing it and then traveling around the country really fires people’s imagination.
Julien is slightly more grounded in his take on it: “Its really not that romantic. In fact its a lot of hard work; long days, working weekends and you’re always at the mercy of the weather”.
“Its a lot of fun, of course”, says Lotte. “But don’t be fooled into thinking its a cash-cow business. There are so many new food trucks entering the marketplace, you really have to ensure you’re original and distinctive”.
Outside of the food truck, the guys also get involved in pop-ups and supper clubs. A while back they worked with Loes and Bas Oonk of Restaurant Basaal on a pop-up restaurant in a temporary design shop in the building that now houses the new hotspot Bleyenberg on Grote Markt.
“We do a lot of private events such as company parties, birthdays, weddings and also crew catering on events”, says Julien. “And if you don’t have room for our food truck then Lotte’s other business Haagse Hapjes can help out. Just get in touch with us via our website or Facebook page to find out more about what we do”.
When they’re not out and about on food truck festivals, where do Lotte and Julien like to dine themselves?
“On Avenue Culinaire, we enjoy drinks and bitterballen at the Pakschuit or dinner at Restaurant Basaal”, says Lotte. “For sushi I head to Kiraku on Toussaintkade – its the oldest sushi bar in the city”.
“When its sunny then a drink on the rooftop bar at Bleyenberg is a must”, says Julien. “And I love the Spanish tapas at ñ on Nobelstraat”.
So – is the future cheese and sausage then?
“We can never get enough cheese”, says Lotte.
“Or sausage”, interjects Julien.
“We’re working on some plans at the moment but we can’t really talk about it. But maybe there will come a day when we swap our truck for our own shop or restaurant. But for now we still really enjoy our truckers life”.
To find out more about Kaas en Worst including private hire and catering visit www.kaasenworst.com